Starting Pitching the Latest Cause for Concern for the Phillies

Since returning from the All-Star break on July 19, the Phillies have by far posted the worst starting pitching ERA among all 30 teams in the Majors at 6.55. And this is with a much-improved Cole Hamels, who has posted a 2.67 ERA in four starts since the break.

Among those 30 teams since the break, Phillies starters have posted the fourth-lowest strikeout rate at 15.5 percent and the third-lowest overall swing-and-miss rate at 17.3 percent. This has resulted in 15 home runs allowed, the second-highest amount by a National League team. Batters have also hit .372 on balls in play.

Here’s a look at the starters individually since the break (excluding the one spot start by Raul Valdes):

  • Cole Hamels: 4 GS, 24.0 IP, 2.67 ERA, 17.4 K%, 5.5 BB%, .309 BABIP
  • Jonathan Pettibone: 2 GS, 10.0 IP, 5.40 ERA, 10.2 K%, 14.3 BB%, .389 BABIP
  • Cliff Lee: 3 GS, 17.0 IP, 5.82 ERA, 26.0 K%, 6.5 BB%, .404 BABIP
  • Ethan Martin: 2 GS, 9.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 21.3 K%, 12.8 BB%, .333 BABIP
  • John Lannan: 4 GS, 20.1 IP, 7.52 ERA, 9.2 K%, 11.2 BB%, .347 BABIP
  • Kyle Kendrick: 5 GS, 24 IP, 8.63 ERA, 12.5 K%, 5.0 BB%, .400 BABIP

As a result, the Phillies are 4-17 (.190) since the break. The Phillies have had issues on just about every front including offense and in the bullpen, but the starting pitching is a new one at this point in the season. From the start of the season up to the All-Star break, the rotation compiled a 4.04 ERA — nothing to write home about, but not awful either, ranking 19th out of 30 teams. Comparatively, they struck out nearly 19 percent of batters and walked 7.5 percent.

With Roy Halladay close to beginning his rehab in the Minor Leagues, he may rejoin the rotation some time in early September, giving him four or five starts to audition not only for the Phillies but for other teams that may be interested in purchasing his services. The Phillies have two interesting decisions to make with Kendrick and Lannan, as their recent performances and overall track records may deter GM Ruben Amaro from tendering one or both contracts during the off-season. As a result, a 2014 rotation could include Hamels, Lee, Halladay on a new incentive-laden deal, Pettibone, and Martin, a cheap free agent acquisition (Jeff Karstens?), or a prospect (Adam Morgan?) who shines in spring training.

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26 comments

  1. NatsLady

    August 12, 2013 09:13 AM

    Interesting on Lannan, especially. Some Nats fans look upon him with regret as the cheap alternative to Haren. Lannan was never a big strikeout guy, but what’s with the walks? What’s with the flyballs?

    His first couple of starts (in April) were vintage Lannan, lots of ground balls. Couple of good games in July, same pattern. But when he doesn’t keep the ball down, not good.

  2. Mark Peltz

    August 12, 2013 09:44 AM

    Amaro, get rid of your bullpen with the exception of Papelbon. Bring in arms that can compete. Your current arms couldn’t make a good AA team. They don’t deserve the salary you are paying them. How low will your attendance go before you do what needs to be done.

  3. Dan R

    August 12, 2013 09:50 AM

    Kendrick appears to have reverted to the pitcher we all believed he was prior to the second half of 2012. While it appears he’s been somewhat BABIP unlucky, he’s also unable to miss bats again.

    Bill, can you give us some more insight on his struggles? Back in April you wrote about how he had reduced his reliance on his cutter and was using his two-seamer and change-up to generate more swings and misses.

    crashburnalley.com/2013/04/29/the-new-and-improved-kyle-kendrick/

    From just glancing at his breakdown on Brooks Baseball, it looks like his cutter usage has increased again starting in June, about when his struggles started again. I’m sure it’s more complex than that, but just a thought.

  4. Pencilfish

    August 12, 2013 10:02 AM

    Halladay is just one of the options available. There is also MAG, but if the Phillies are no longer trying to sign him, it’s possible RAJ goes after another FA pitcher such as Lincecum, Kuroda, Garza, de la Rosa, Johnson, Nolasco, etc.

  5. Phillie697

    August 12, 2013 10:39 AM

    “Amaro, get rid of your bullpen with the exception of Papelbon. Bring in arms that can compete. Your current arms couldn’t make a good AA team. They don’t deserve the salary you are paying them.”

    Besides Papelbon and Adams, is any other reliever making anything other than peanuts?

    That said, I was at Saturday’s game when that bullpen gave up 5 runs in the 7th to the equally offensively-challenged Nats, and I wanted to break something. But while we are on the topic of starting pitchers, Cliff Lee did not look all that good. Should have traded him when we had the chance.

  6. Phillie697

    August 12, 2013 10:55 AM

    Oh, and since my interest in the team is primary the young guys now, I should give my impression of them on Saturday. However, do remember that I don’t really take much stock in what my eyes see, so take whatever follows with a grain of salt.

    I liked Asche. His bat may not play in the majors, but he was quite solid defensively, with a strong, accurate arm. We could do a lot worse at 3B, especially after watching Michael Young.

    Ruf hit a HR, and I immediately thought about some people’s enthusiasm about him here. Then I watched him flail hopelessly at everything his last two ABs; Tyler Clippard especially made him look like he has no idea what he was doing. I don’t know how it looked on TV, but it was pretty ugly to watch. At some point teams are going to figure out how to get him out.

    Dom hit a HR. Dom is awesome. But that didn’t make up for the 5-run debacle.

  7. Dan R

    August 12, 2013 11:50 AM

    Thanks Bill, not sure how I missed that.

  8. SteveH

    August 12, 2013 11:52 AM

    You guys remember when starting pitching was supposed to be our biggest strength? Lets talk about Cliff Lee for a second. I think he has checked out for the season. I’m not sure if he doesn’t want to be here anymore or if he just doesn’t want to be here with Charlie and Ruben. It’s kind of a shame really.

    I ALSO KNOW EXACTLY HOW TO FIX THE STARTING STAFF!!!! Let them pitch against our lineup. Matt Cain and Steven Strasburg have under performed all year, except when they faced us.

  9. Larry

    August 12, 2013 12:08 PM

    @ SteveH,

    Steven Strasburg’s ERA this year is 2.83 in 23 starts, which is better than his career average of 2.90. He is 5th in ks in the NL. He is also tied for 5th in WHIP. I wouldn’t say he has under performed at all.

  10. Larry

    August 12, 2013 12:15 PM

    Stephen*

  11. SteveH

    August 12, 2013 12:35 PM

    @Larry

    In Strasburg’s last 5 starts he was 0-3 with a 4.93 ERA. What I mean by my statement is that he, like Cain, were there for the taking. Neither was as dominate this year as they were in the past and we were unable to do what other teams have done all year and get to them.

  12. Larry

    August 12, 2013 01:17 PM

    @SteveH

    “In Strasburg’s last 5 starts he was 0-3 with a 4.93 ERA. What I mean by my statement is that he, like Cain, were there for the taking.”

    OK, that makes sense, he was going through a rough patch.

    “Neither was as dominate this year as they were in the past and we were unable to do what other teams have done all year and get to them.”

    I don’t think I can agree with statement about Strassburg. His 1st full year or close to a full season was 2012. If we compare seasons, these are his #s:

    2012- ERA – 3.16, ERA+ – 126, WHIP – 1.155, HR/9 – .8, BB/9 – 2.7

    2013- ERA – 2.83, ERA + 134, WHIP – 1.039, HR/9 – .7, BB/9 – 2.6, 1st complete game shutout

    The only thing that was better in 2012 was K’s/9. I think he is one of the best pitchers in the NL right now. Can you elaborate on how he hasn’t been dominate this year as he was in the past?

  13. Brian

    August 12, 2013 03:30 PM

    @SteveH

    “Lets talk about Cliff Lee for a second. I think he has checked out for the season. I’m not sure if he doesn’t want to be here anymore or if he just doesn’t want to be here with Charlie and Ruben. It’s kind of a shame really.”

    *looks up*

    “Cliff Lee:… .404 BABIP”

    Oh, ok.

  14. Bob

    August 12, 2013 07:11 PM

    The thing that jumps out is Lee’s and Kendrick’s BABIP as both are abnormally high. You have to wonder if the Phillies poor defense has contributed to these numbers in so much as I don’t believe the Phils’ fielders have much, if any, range. With the likes of MY, DY, JMJ in center, a slowed-down version of the aging core of Utley and J-Roll, it’s a wonder the numbers aren’t higher.

  15. willroger

    August 13, 2013 06:26 AM

    The Phillies problems are as clear as ever. Get rid of their aging none productive overpaid players and for God’s sake recruit some players who will play to win, and not try to pad their pockets because of past performances. Results are; happier fans, smaller payroll and above all a winning franchise world series or not.

    Thank you

  16. hk

    August 13, 2013 06:39 AM

    Bob,

    That’s actually not true about Cliff Lee as his BABIP is .287, which is below his career average of .295. However, Kendrick, Hamels and Lannan all have BABIP’s at least .012 higher than their career averages. I wonder if there’s value in using a team’s total pitching BABIP as a measure of its team defense.

  17. Bob

    August 13, 2013 07:16 AM

    hk, I was just referring to the numbers that Bill posted above, which says his BABIP over the last X number of starts is .404.

    I hadn’t checked his stats and .287, which I agree with you is low. I think an average BABIP is in the .290-.300 level. Not sure about that though.

    So, if his career average is .295, it looks like the BABIP has been the major factor over his last couple. But how do you improve BABIP? Seems like luck, fielding, and positioning.

  18. hk

    August 13, 2013 08:19 AM

    Bob,

    Yes, I think lately the BABIP has hurt Lee, but that is in a relatively small sample size. The bigger picture issue, which you referenced initially, is that the other three starters have all been hurt by higher than career average BABIP’s and both Pettibone and Martin have high BABIP’s in their starts, albeit also in relatively small sample sizes.

  19. SteveH

    August 13, 2013 09:47 AM

    @Larry

    I can agree Strasburg as a whole has been as good as before. I was more looking over the last 5 starts. The complete game 4 hitter thing just pissed me off. The 11 straight road losses pissed me off too. The Nationals are not the Tigers or the Cardinals but they sure looked good against our batting practice pitching.

    Can anyone explain to me why other good teams are able to create young bullpen arms that throw strikes but we seem incapable of that task. Don’t people need to be fired? I know if my job was to train new employees and they performed like this I would be looking for a new job so why not these guys.

  20. Phillie697

    August 13, 2013 12:16 PM

    @Bob,

    If his BABIP over the last 4 games is .404, and his season average is .287, don’t you have to automatically realize that this means his earlier success was due partly to luck too, and the last 4 starts is just part of the regression? You can’t just focus on the tree and forget the forest.

    His to-date stats are almost identical to last year. Just like Hamels, however, it seems like 2010-2011 might be the aberration, not the norm, and the Lee we see is the Lee we get, which is to say we will get literally no cost efficiency based on what we are paying him, unlike what many here have claimed otherwise.

  21. Bob

    August 13, 2013 12:34 PM

    I was limiting my observations to the time period following all-star break because that is what Bill limited it to. I realize the sample size is limited, but you gotta take that up with Bill, not me.

    Per Fangraphs, an average BABIP is .290-.300 range. A .287 is not far off, albeit, slightly better than average and more than .2 better than last year for him. This also is in line with Lee’s historical average of a .295 BABIP. Conversely, a .404 BABIP is off the charts bad or unlucky. Take your pick.

  22. Phillie697

    August 13, 2013 01:49 PM

    @Bob,

    The .287 includes the .404, which means before the .404 it would have been much lower. Hence, lucky.

  23. Bob

    August 13, 2013 03:17 PM

    His BABIP before the all-star break was about .271 meaning he was off his historical average by about -.024. I agree that this is luck.

    But after the all-star break, his BABIP is .404, which is a +.094. This is an insane number. Very high.

    If you’re arguing that the season is long and stats tend to normalize to historical averages, that’s fine. I don’t think we have much to dispute there.

    Yet, the overall point of Bill’s initial post is that the starting pitching has been bad since the all-star break and here are the numbers. My observation is temporally limited to the parameters set forth above, whereas you seem to be arguing outside of those limitations. Nothing wrong with that, but I think we’re talking apples and oranges here.

  24. willroger

    August 13, 2013 08:41 PM

    Make no mistake about it, the Phillies stink all the way from pitching, fielding and hitting. It’s painful watching this team show up and perform the way they do. I am happy that loyal fans like myself are looking forward to some serious changes after the season is over. I say this because 90% of the players have given up totally and I think it is a disgrace to get paid for the effort put forth by them.

  25. joe

    August 14, 2013 10:31 AM

    the Phils problems start in the front office. Amaro is awful. he pays too much for past performances by older players.

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